Bethel native Major Torok welcomed home
For Bethel resident and Army Reserve Major Michael Torok the recent Wikileaks stories have a unique familiarity. He recently returned from Iraq where he spent 10 months working with databases similar to those allegedly used by Army Specialist Bradley Manning to provide information to Wikileaks.
Torok, who is trained as a critical care nurse, was most recently deployed to the Victory Base Complex in Baghdad with a civil affairs unit. Torok said his job was to collect articles from the databases and condense them in order to provide concise, accurate information to commanders who are directing the efforts to rebuild infrastructure and provide local Iraqi governors with the tools they need to establish a local government.
“It’s not really flashy,” Torok said. “We extrapolated information out of databases to create projects in insurgency areas.”
He said the information he worked with allowed the commanders to concentrate their efforts in areas with high levels of insurgency. Projects were assigned to the areas in an effort to employ local residents.
“When people are gainfully employed they’re not working for terrorists,” Torok said. “If they’re working they’re not shooting at you.”
The infrastructure projects included building courthouses, greenhouses, and working with local governors to set up rule of law programs. Torok said he was able to work closely with fellow Clermont County resident and U.S. Ambassador David Caudill on the rule of law projects. He also worked closely with the State Department.
Torok said when he was not working with the databases he was training the rotating field units on the use of the databases and teaching Iraqis how to develop and analyze their own databases.
Torok was welcomed home and recognized for his service by the Clermont County Commissioners at their Dec. 8 meeting, but he said it was his wife, Lisa, who deserved the recognition.
“While I was in Iraq all I had to do was my job. Someone cooked for me and did my laundry and made sure everything was taken care of,” Torok said. “Lisa had to work full-time and look after our two children (Maria and Hannah), two horses, cats, and a hamster.”
He thanked the commissioners, the Veterans Services Commission, the Thank You Foundation, and Jean Schmidt’s office for the recognition.
“It’s wonderful to get these things, but they (his family) are the ones doing all the heavy lifting,” Torok said.
Thank You Foundation Director Sarah Rieke extended her thanks and said she served in Iraq while Torok was working as a critical care nurse in 2007 and 2008 at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq.
“I was one of the boots on the ground,” Rieke said.
Veterans’ Service Commission senior officer Frank Morrow presented Torok with a challenge coin and said the commission would be there for him when he may need them.
“We’ll make sure everything you’ve got coming to you gets there,” Morrow said.
Representative for Jean Schmidt’s office Steve Caraway presented Torok with a proclamation from the Congresswoman and read a lengthy list of the Bethel-Tate graduate’s accolades.
The Commissioners also presented Torok with a proclamation for his service.